Finalists share culture, gifts and smiles at the 2024 Regeneron ISEF Pin Exchange - Society for Science Skip to content

Finalists share culture, gifts and smiles at the 2024 Regeneron ISEF Pin Exchange

By Lucy Curtis

Two finalists pose together at the pin exchange.
The pin exchange is a chance for ISEF finalists from around the world to socialize, exchange pins and gifts and meet fellow young scientists from around the world. Courtesy of Society for Science/Chris Ayers Photographer

On the first night of Regeneron ISEF, finalists gathered in Petree Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center to exchange pins representing their home countries, states and cities. In addition to the enamel pins, some students brought gifts from their homes, with a few lucky attendees receiving origami cranes from Team Japan, colorful stuffed elephants from Team Thailand, miniature flags from Team Puerto Rico and shiny new Egyptian pounds.

Some pins took the shape of a state, country or flag, while some represented finalists’ homes in other ways. Team Illinois handed out pins made from pennies or shaped like Abraham Lincoln, while team Australia gave out stuffed koalas which hugged the recipient’s lanyard.

This year, nearly 1,700 finalists from 370 affiliated fairs traveled from 67 countries, regions and territories to participate in Regeneron ISEF. The pin exchange is one of the first opportunities the finalists have to socialize, spend time together, and meet students from around the world who share their passion for STEM.

“The pin exchange really exposed me to other cultures. People were very friendly and outgoing, it helped me to learn more about the finalists than just their science,” one finalist from Florida shared. “It was really nice to engage with everyone, see their ISEF categories, and make new friends along the way,” he added.

One finalist from Taiwan remarked that she enjoyed the pin exchange because “the pins from other countries were adorable, and the exchange let me have a conversation with people from other places and learn about their cultures.”

Her teammate agreed, adding that the size of the event was surprising to her, and being in a room with this many successful young scientific researchers felt a little intimidating. “This place is full of smart people, and it makes me nervous,” she joked.

Numerous finalists dressed in traditional clothing from their homelands. Team Korea sported traditional hanbok, Team Houston donned sparkly blue cowboy hats, Team Germany wore colorful dirndls— literally meaning “young woman’s dress” in German—and some members of Team Iowa wore hats shaped like cobs of corn!  The pin exchange is a time-honored ISEF tradition which allows finalists to share important aspects of their culture, meet new friends and get excited for the incredible week ahead. The night ended with finalists gathering with their newly found friends to eat and socialize, their lanyards heavy with new pins.

Be sure to tune into the Grand Awards Ceremony on Friday, May 17 at 8:30 a.m. PDT using this link.

Lucy Curtis